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Ten Years after 9/11

August 30, 2011

We are less than two weeks from the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and it is important that we take a step back and ask ourselves some serious questions about what has transpired in the US and abroad since the 9/11 attacks in the US in 2001.

It is necessary to ask hard questions about the consequences of 9/11 since we can not rely on the commercial news media to honestly report on what the US has done with both its foreign and domestic policy since the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were hit 10 years ago.

In fact, the commercial news media will no doubt focus on memorial services and activities planned for 9/11 that will not move beyond what happen 10 years ago. We will be encouraged to mournfully reflect on the 3,000 lives that were lost on 9/11 in the US and then to offer up our support to law enforcement agencies and the US military, which continue to “defend our freedom.”

However, if you don’t get teary-eyed every time you see an American flag or have yet to succumb to putting one of those “Get r Done!” stickers on your car then you might want to honestly think about how the US government has responded since 9/11. The most costly responses have been the US occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, both justified by 9/11.

First, the US has spent a massive amount of money on war, occupation, surveillance and military aid around the world. According to the National Priorities Project, the US has spent $1.42 Trillion (and counting) just on the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. This amount does not include the current war in Libya or the US funding to Israel and all the other military activities the US has engaged in, all in the name of the War on Terror. The $1.42 Trillion translates into $28.5 billion in tax dollars that has left the State of Michigan to fund the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The amount of tax money that has left Grand Rapids to fund these two wars is now up to $447 million (and counting). With all the budget problems at the federal, state and local level the American public might want to rethink the Pentagon’s budget.

Second, these military occupations abroad have resulted in an estimated 1,455,590 civilian deaths in Iraq and tens of thousands in Afghanistan. Add to that 4,474 US soldier deaths in Iraq and another 1,752 in Afghanistan and the death tool is staggering. In addition to the death toll there have been thousands wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Third, the US has not been able to defeat or significantly reduce al Qaeda operatives around the world. In fact, the ongoing US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have been the best recruiting tool that al Qaeda and other insurgent groups could have asked for.

Fourth, the US occupations abroad and support for repressive governments has actually led to a significant number of popular uprisings, particularly in the Middle East. These uprisings, called the Arab Spring by some, have demonstrated that the overthrow of dictatorships needs to come from the populations of those countries and that the US government has in no way been supportive of the generally non-violent uprising that want democratic rule.

Fifth, the US and its allies have not only condoned but actively engaged in torture as a matter of policy, like what has been documented in the jails of Abu Ghraib and Bagram or the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay. The use of torture will only contribute to growing anti-American sentiment and lead to further acts of violence.

On the domestic front there have also been ongoing consequences to the so-called US War on Terror. In general civil rights and civil liberties have been violated on a massive scale.

According to the ACLU, the laws that have been passed since 9/11 have taken away a significant number of previously constitutionally protected rights, particularly the right of due process and the right of privacy. The passing of the USA Patriot Act within days of 9/11 has been continued and revised on numerous occasions since 9/11. The language of the Patriot Act is such that people in the US who participate in civil disobedience can now be labeled domestic terrorists, which is just one tactic that the US government ha been using to suppress dissent.

We have seen the rise of collaboration between phone companies and the US government in order to spy on US citizens. We have seen the arrested and detention of those of civilians who have not been guilty of anything other than looking foreign and we have seen an increased level of censorship, both of critical voices in news media and critical voices in academia.

However, it has been the Muslim and Arab communities that suffered the worst in the US since 9/11. Thousands of Arabs and Muslims have been arrested, detained, questioned, deported and in some cases killed because of their suspected connection to global terrorism. There has also been in increase of hate crimes against Arab Americans and Muslims in the US, which have been fueled in part by the growing popularity of Islamophobia.

There is certainly a great deal more that could be said about the consequences of US policy since 9/11, but these comments will hopefully provide people with an opportunity to have informed discourse as the nation is in the midst of tenth anniversary of the 9/11 memorial mania.

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